Alex White Plume is a Lakota entrepreneur with strong traditional values from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He grew up in the poorest area of the United States and became very interested in socio-political issues after leaving the US Army when his enlistment ended. He returned home and became both president and vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and has spent decades trying to bring economic growth to the area.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has harsh weather and physical conditions, which makes farming crops very difficult. The Lakota people have had little success in growing various agricultural crops due to these environmental factors, leaving a narrow window of opportunity for farming. The crops that grow with the most successful yield are corn and wheat which provide very few jobs and therefore a stagnant economy on the Reservation.
Industrial hemp is a sustainable, hardy, high yield crop that grows quickly in tough terrain and repairs the soil, making it an ideal crop for the Lakota to grow. It has many nutritional health benefits including high protein, unsaturated fats, a great source of fiber, as well as a plethora of minerals and vitamins. Hemp was legal to be sold in the United States but not cultivated, due to the federal anti-drug laws that came into play in 1968. The Oglala Sioux Tribe allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp on their land in 1998 after copious amounts of research and campaigning.
Alex White Plume assumed that he would be able to cultivate industrial hemp due to the sovereign status of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s land, and first planted industrial hemp plants on his family’s farm in April 2000. He is reported to be the only farmer to openly plant, cultivate and produce cannabis-related crops throughout the federal prohibition which began in 1968. In 2002, before Alex had even harvested the first crop, the DEA violated the Sioux Treaty of 1868. They illegally entered and destroyed his crops in a surprise raid, and the US District Attorney served him eight civil charges, and a court order prohibiting him and his whole family from growing the crop again. This left him undeterred– “The DEA came and stole our hemp, but we can just plant it again and regrow it.”
Alex appealed but the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the DEA, although they did acknowledge that hemp could be a great crop for the Pine Ridge Reservation. Finally in March 2016, the federal injunction was lifted and Alex was allowed to cultivate industrial hemp, with less than 0.3% THC levels again.
The hemp is cultivated by Alex on the reservation, then the organic, cannabinoid-rich hemp flower is harvested and made into health foods such as hemp seed hearts, hemp protein powder, hemp oil, hemp extract, hemp capsules and hemp protein bars. This brings a steady source of income to the reservation and the Lakota people, which in turn offers the residents of Pine Ridge Reservation the opportunity have better economic future.
Evo Hemp is based in Boulder, Colorado and is well known for its hemp health food products which are sold in all 50 US states and in more than 5,000 retailers including Kroger, Costco, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Earth Fare, Giant Eagle, Shaw’s, Natural Grocers, Sprouts– and the list continues to grow.